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The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of the Planet Earth

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  947 ratings  ·  60 reviews
When Peter Thiel and Max Levchin launched an online payment website in 1999, they hoped their service could improve the lives of millions around the globe. But when their start-up, PayPal, survived the crash only to find itself besieged by unimaginable challenges, that dream threatened to become a nightmare. PayPal's history - as told by former insider Eric Jackson ...more
Paperback, 270 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by World Ahead Publishing (first published September 1st 2004)
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Start your review of The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of the Planet Earth
May 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
Jackson's writing is insufferable and self-satisfied, with no capacity for generating empathy. I wanted to cram a banana down his throat then reach in and peel it. Otherwise, a fascinating tale of the origins of the company that rose to dominate online payments.
Michael Connolly
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, business
PayPal was founded by Peter Thiel, David Sacks, and Max Levchin. Peter Thiel was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Max Levchin was born in Kiev, Ukraine. David Sacks was born in Cape Town, South Africa. Peter Thiel and Norman Book had earlier founded the libertarian newspaper, The Stanford Review. Thiel and Sacks had earlier written The Diversity Myth, which criticized political correctness and multiculturalism at Stanford University.

Money Transfers
PayPay was originally designed for people wi
Nov 12, 2015 rated it liked it
While initially captivating, after some time I started noticing repetitive and exaggerated statements, like "had I known", or "would turn out fateful" or "PayPal vs entire planet Earth" or "hostile media".

Yes, battles with eBay were indeed battles and they were interesting. The media - IMO - were skeptical rather than hostile (and after .com bust who can blame them?). The Mafia turned out to be not quite what was initially hinted at. Yes, PayPal dealt with money, money means fraud, fraud require
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Eric Jackson's recounting of Paypal's early days may stand the test of time as one of the best accounts of high-growth startup life right around the time of the dotcom bust. As someone who got into that world right around the time, I found a lot of this book to ring true.

If you work in startups - or if you're simply curious about what it was really like to build a Silicon Valley company during those days - definitely pick this one up.
Sagar Jethani
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Eric M. Jackson's "The PayPal Wars" stands as one of the finest accounts yet written of the heady days of dot-com in 2000 and 2001. What makes Jackson's account so imminently readable is the author's sense of humility, and his reflexive empathy for the travails of his colleagues at PayPal.

Originally recruited away from Anderson by Peter Theil, Jackson writes from the vantage of one accustomed to the ways of the old economy-- strict hierarchy, clearly-defined roles, and an emphasis on structure.
Ankur Sharma
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's an incredible account of a company which had set out to change how payments were looked at (and also was able to do it to a large extent)
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
The story of Paypal's struggle for World Domination is well told by their former marketing director who joined the company Conformity in its early days. He is a strong supporter of the Paypal Brand and an arch enemy of all things Ebay whose attempts to throw "roadblocks" at the company would almost cause disaster on numerous occasions. This book is very well done with top analysis on the business functions of Paypal. It considers Paypal's inability to get profitable and the problems inherent in ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Cool story for those interested in payments and the start-up world, though the writing style got repetitive after a few chapters.

The epilogue makes an interesting argument - very true to a libertarian / fiscal conservative viewpoint and supported by the story of PayPal's experience immediately post-IPO - that Joseph Schumpeter's idea of creative destruction has now largely moved from being driven by competitive "market forces" to non-market forces such as capricious regulatory bodies, clueless h
John Morrow
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
Bought it because Amazon kept recommending it and I usually like business stories. Story was disappointing. Mr. Jackson was not high level enough to have great insights. The interesting personalities at PayPal such as Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, etc., which should have been the focus of the story, received less pages than placement of various buttons in the "fight" with eBay. The author found out about the PayPal merger after it was announced so missed that key story as well. Overall quite disappo ...more
Dan Martell
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Amazing read. Couldn't put it down .. for real.
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Because it’s really the only book in town about PayPal so despite the average rating I decided to give it a try. It wasn’t nearly as bad. Different from most books about startup, which are usually written by or from the perspective of the founders, this one is written by a low level employee who joined the firm at the very early stage and went through all the changes. It gives you a totally different perspective. The whole book is very conversational, an easy read. It’s best for those who look t ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
An entertaining description of the roller coast of practical decisions that an iconic company with lots of huge personalities experienced 20 years ago. One thing that comes our clearly is that Elon Musk has really been a generational talent when it comes to getting fabulously rich by losing prodigious amounts of other people’s money....
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good read about PayPal's struggles (doh), a new startup battling the old economy, Peter Thiels mental composure and clarity, and Elon Musk's shenanigans.

I just wish the writer could've injected some more drama, not into PayPal (it's had more than it's fair share) but into his narration style, felt very bland.
Ruoall Chapman
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
Book was "meh"... I could still handle how it's written, but having to read about Peter Thiel (whom I despise) was far worse.

Being from South Africa, I want to keep routing for everything Elon, but alas. They are all the same sharks in my opinion.


Ruoall @ Project Success Mastery
Mike Steinharter
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it
interesting story and well-written by Jackson, though not sure how many outside the payments industry will find the level of detail compelling. Cast of characters certainly is.
Liam Polkinghorne
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting story about beginnings of PayPal and the difficulties starting a business that ultimately benefits from network effects.
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Informative read on the beginnings of PayPal and why PP eventually got acquired by eBay.
Dhruv Maheshwari
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed hearing this story and reading about the roles of all these "paypal mafia" in the original story.
Andy Boot
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Story PayPal. Interesting but not as good as: chaos monkeys.
Ann Evans
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was ok
I read this book because I had an early relationship with Paypal. In about 1999, I started using Ebay, first as a buyer, then as a seller (and I sold a LOT - became kind of addicted)! Paypal was all a part of that, of course, and it was mildly interesting reading about first the rivalry between Ebay and Paypal and then their eventual merger. If you don't use Ebay, however, I would probably give this book a big YAWN!!
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nice read on the history of PayPal. The author is a bit presumptuous and self-flattering, but that doesn't interfere much with the story, and his recollection of all of the details is impressive. He focuses primarily on the business, marketing, and product strategy - not much on the product development or engineering perspective.

Great read for a reasonably detailed account of what a successful software company was like in its early days.
Lorenzo Barberis Canonico
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves-and-goats
this is the book I read these past few weeks. It’s the story of Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, David Sachs and the entire Paypal Mafia surviving the tumultuous time that was the .com era. It’s interesting to hear it from the perspective of an insider writing this before any of these people became as famous as they are today. It’s a genuinely inspiring story because it’s so different from the “young dropout starts a social media app” story we are using to hearing a lot these days.
Bill Seitz
Mar 06, 2010 rated it liked it
I had hoped this book would include more on the early thinking about becoming an independent currency. But that just gets a couple brief mentions.

The only real detailed "war" coverage is with eBay.

It's just another corporate history. If you like that sorta thing, maybe you'll like this more than I did.
Rob Olson
I loved the inside story into the early days and rise of PayPal. It could have been made better if told from the perspective of Peter Thiel, Max Levchin, or another very senior executive. Eric Jackson was able to capture some of the juicy bits but I know there was probably so much more that Peter Thiel was privy to that went untold.
Brentley Campbell
I loved this book! It was hard to put down every time I needed to study. For entrepreneurs, the epilog is especially relevant. I would recommend this book to anyone with the interest in starting a company. It is very inspiring and at the same time shows all of the choices involved that either make or break a company.
May 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting insight into the pre-eBay culture at PayPal, but remember it was written by a marketing guy. You'll learn some interesting things from what he says (and infer some things from what he doesn't say). It's a decent book, but don't expect a balanced view from it.
Tom Kamei
May 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent read for anyone considering entrepreneurial ventures as a career - gives an inside look on lifestyle and thought process of navigating an industry changing at lightening speeds.

Understanding the characters behind the PayPal Mafia
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reads like a novel. I very good look into the VC culture of silicon valley. Additionally, it should be a must read for generation Y employees. It really shows how necessary problem solving, adaptability leads to accomplishments and success.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, own-it
This was a good read, but I think the author may have been hindered somewhat because he was a junior employee and because of this, some senior executive level insight was lacking that might have added some good context.
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be very valuable to me as a business executive in the technology and advertising industry. Great storytelling which makes this an easy ready with practical examples of how PayPal approached various situations.
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